UFC 300: Aljamain Sterling on How He Stacks up With Dominick Cruz as Bantamweight ‘GOAT’ (Exclusive)

Who is the greatest bantamweight fighter of all time? Sterling weighs in.
Oct 22, 2022; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Aljamain Sterling (red gloves) before his fight against T.J. Dillashaw
Oct 22, 2022; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Aljamain Sterling (red gloves) before his fight against T.J. Dillashaw / Craig Kidwell-USA TODAY Sports

Aljamain Sterling’s bantamweight run was one for the books.

The former UFC Champion is closing the chapter on 135lbs as he heads into new territory this weekend. Sterling moves up a division and is set to make his featherweight debut against ranked contender Calvin Kattar on the UFC 300 undercard.

RELATED: UFC 300: Aljamain Sterling to Prove Double-Champ Potential, ‘Off Night’ vs. Sean O’Malley

Entering the UFC in 2014, Sterling went 15-4 in the weight class and won the world title by disqualification against Petr Yan after the champion hit him with an illegal knee. The controversy (or at least a large part of it) was put to rest in the rematch as Sterling won by split decision.

‘Funkmaster’ went on to rack up three title defenses in total with wins over Yan and former champs TJ Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo before losing the title to Sean O’Malley at UFC 292 in August.

Leaving the bantamweight division behind, Sterling is considered one of the greatest fighters to ever compete at 135lbs along with former two-time champion Dominick Cruz. Sterling gives insight on where he stands in the bantamweight ‘GOAT’ conversation.

“I think my resume is pretty hard to deny,” Sterling told SI’s MMA Knockout. “I mean, if you look at the amount of ranked fighters I faced in the UFC, I think there was only three opponents that I faced that did not have a number next to their name. Everybody else was ranked, former champions. They were top 5 at a time. I think I faced or beat five top 5 guys.

“I don't think there's anybody else who's done that. When you look at the resume, I think it speaks for itself.”

(Special thanks to ‘Culture Kings’ for making the interview happen, look out for a follow-up story later this week on their collaboration with the UFC for UFC 300 and Sterling’s two cents on the fashion crossover)

Sterling defeated the likes of Renan Barao, Jimmie Rivera, Pedro Munhoz and Cory Sandhagen on his road to the top.

Long before Sterling ever took the throne, Dominick Cruz made headway in the bantamweight division. “The Dominator” won the WEC title in 2010, stringing together seven wins in a row in the promotion before being promoted to UFC Champion as a result of the historic UFC-WEC merger.

Cruz defended the title twice against Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson before eventually vacating the title due to a torn ACL that kept him out of action for three years until 2014.

It was a run of bad luck for the former champ as Cruz suffered another ACL injury, this time in his other knee, which kept him from fighting again until 2016.

San Diego’s Cruz regained the title with a close decision win over TJ Dillashaw in 2016 and one last successful title defense to close out his rivalry with Urijah Faber. After losing the title to Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207, Cruz has only fought four times since then, going 2-2. 

Aljamain Sterling weighs in on how Dominick Cruz’s career compares to his. 

“Of course, Dom's been out with some injuries for quite some time. I think if he was a bit more active, we would have been able to get a more definitive answer [on who the greatest bantamweight of all time is],” Sterling said. “So, I just kinda leave that to the fans to decide who they feel based on the resume and the body of work within the UFC and if you're gonna include the WEC, I think Dominick Cruz would be hard to kinda ignore then.”

In a battle of old school vs. new school, who do you hold higher in the bantamweight ‘GOAT’ debate, Aljamain Sterling or Dominick Cruz?

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Chris De Santiago

CHRIS DE SANTIAGO